Talented Women's Golf Roster Eager to Return to Competition
The Oregon women's golf team was just starting to hit its stride last March when COVID-19 brought the nation to a halt.
The Ducks shot 2-under par in the final round of the Tucson Invitational to earn their second straight top-three finish and sixth top-five showing in seven tournaments. Oregon's young roster was beginning to round into form midway through head coach Derek Radley's second season.
But the global pandemic abruptly ended the spring season, leaving the Ducks wondering what could have been.
"Our team was gaining serious momentum when everything suddenly came to a stop," said Radley. "Our first priority was to get all of our Ducks home safe to be with their families. Since then we have all communicated remotely, but continued to stay positive and work harder than ever knowing one day we would be back, and we will be ready."
"We're just beyond thankful to be able to compete again."@DerekRadleyGolf joined @JoeyMacUO on Duck Insider to preview the start of the 2021 season, which kicks off next weekend in Corvallis! #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/b3qWLi5UOz
— Oregon Women's Golf (@OregonWGolf) January 28, 2021
With more than half of the 2021 roster coming from overseas, the Ducks spent much of the last 10-plus months competing individually in local tournaments, getting ahead on school work and doing their best to connect virtually as a team.
Now, Radley and assistant coach Monica Vaughn finally have their entire team together in Eugene. The Ducks have been practicing the last few weeks in preparation for the 2021 spring season, which will kick off this Saturday and Sunday with a two-day exhibition against Oregon State in Corvallis. The format will be head-to-head stroke play with a point each awarded to the winner of the front nine, back nine, and overall match. There will not be live scoring available for the exhibition event.
"Coach D and I are so excited to have our team back this spring." said Vaughn. "Not being able to see each other or play together for more than nine months has only strengthened our motivation to go out and prove that we are back and better than ever. We have a stacked lineup that's itching to compete at the highest level."
Oregon closed 2019-20 ranked No. 14 in the nation - the program's highest end-of-season ranking since 2014-15 – while setting a new single-season record with a 290.48 team scoring average.
Radley returns the core of that talented team, led by elite sophomore Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen. The No. 24 ranked player in the nation at the end of a stellar freshman season, Nielsen was a WGCA all-America honorable mention selection after posting the second-best individual scoring average in program single-season history (72.52).
"Sofie is a natural talent and someone who pays attention to detail," said Radley. "She is extremely diligent with everything she does and has just begun to scratch the surface. I am beyond excited to watch her continue to dominate and win at the collegiate level."
Nielsen will be looked to as a leader this spring along with senior Alexis Phadungmartvorakul, who enjoyed a solid finish to her junior season and then won the West Coast Women's Amateur during the summer.
Oregon also returns junior Tze-Han (Heather) Lin and sophomore Briana Chacon, giving Radley four experienced pieces to work into his lineup, along with junior Bella Setio and sophomore Ching-Tzu Chen.
The Ducks lost Amy Matsuoka – who earned first professional win over the summer after graduating – but Radley brought in arguably the most talented recruit in program history to round out the 2021 roster: Taiwan native Hsin-Yu (Cynthia) Lu.
Lu is the No. 1 ranked player coming out of Asia in the 2020 collegiate signing class, and she enters her first spring season with Oregon as the No. 50 ranked amateur player in the world. Nielsen is the next-highest ranked Duck at No. 135.
"Cynthia is the best-ranked recruit ever to join our program and we are thrilled to have her as a part of our Duck family," said Radley. "She is one of the most talented incoming freshmen I have ever seen and has proven herself against the best amateurs in the world. She has the tools, work ethic and passion to be one of the best in college golf."
Lu will get her first taste of collegiate competition this weekend in Corvallis before Oregon plays in its first true tournament of the spring on Feb. 15-17 at the Sun Devil Winter Classis in Phoenix. The Ducks will play three tournaments in Arizona and two in California before heading to Stanford for the Pac-12 Championships on April 23-25.
Like everything else, this college golf season will undoubtedly look different from any other as the nation continues to try to get COVID-19 under control. But the Ducks are back and eager to compete, and the amount of young talent on the roster makes Oregon a team to watch throughout the spring.